Sustainability in fashion

By using the color pink, a young boy in Berlinale’s Generation 2016 film Rauf hopes to attract attention of a girl. But he doesn’t really know what the color pink looks like — nor does he have a clue as to how the fabric is produced. “If we check the labels of our clothes, most of them are ‘Made in China’ or from Bangladesh or Vietnam. This is even the case with high-priced fashion”, says Academy Award©-nominated costume designer Lisy Christl, who dresses actors for blockbusters such as Independence Day and Point Break as well as for independent productions.


The age of globalization and “fast fashion” has made it more difficult than ever for costume designers to buy local products. Instead of importing fabrics from China, color them in California and bring the clothes to New Mexico — costumes can be made without a huge carbon footprint. “In the world of costume design, a sustainable production chain means producing a dress in your own atelier or a costume house, with that you close a ‘made-to-hire’ contract”, Lisy Christl points out. “This way, they tailor a dress for a film but they keep owning it. When production wraps, the dress gets cleaned and becomes part of their costume stock. It can be rented out to another production which might change some accessories. But the costume stays in the loop.”



During the production of the historical drama Anonymous by Roland Emmerich at Studio Babelsberg in Berlin, many Renaissance costumes were trucked in from the costume stocks in Rome and London. “The made-to-hire concept is environmentally as well as economically the most efficient principle”, sums up the costume designer. “It saves about thirty percent of the budget to buy second-hand clothes or to get them from a costume stock. “If we talk about sustainability in fashion, we have to consider the carbon footprint of clothing.”


The downside of the fast fashion phenomenon is abstract for most people. But when Creative Director/Producer Livia Firth, wife of British actor Colin Firth, saw the injurious impact of the garment and textile industry in Bangladesh, she decided to take action. At the Golden Globes ceremony, she started the Green Carpet Challenge by wearing only sustainable/ethical fashion. The project was supported by Academy-Award© winning actress Meryl Streep. When The Iron Lady star collected her third Oscar for Best Actress, Streep wore a glamorous golden gown that was created from eco-certified fabric by Lanvin.


The Hollywood icon, who is presiding over the International Jury at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, has already taken a stand as an environmental activist who was in favor of reducing carbon emissions, sustainable food, and the battle against agricultural pesticides in the late 1980s. Nowadays, Streep is no longer a lone voice in Hollywood. The Green Carpet Challenge experienced a breakthrough when Stella McCartney designed a collection with eco-certified fabrics. Among the stars promoting sustainable styles on the red carpet is Emma Watson. The actress is using her celebrity to campaign for eco-change. She started a fair trade fashion line called People Tree and she is even traveling to Bangladesh to see for herself where the clothing is being made.


Photos: © Baris Kaya/ Berlinae/ Claudette Barius

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